Casual dining and great cocktails at The Rook in Ithaca’s west end

This week we’re back in Ithaca’s west end visiting The Rook. Open just over a year, the Rook has “new American” bistro fare and excellent cocktails five days a week.

Spaetzle at The Rook: next-level mac & cheese. 14850 photo.

The menu ranges from snacks to appetizers and small plates to full-size entrees, with a nice mix of creative and flavorful food for carnivores and vegetarians alike.

We started with the grilled dates, rich morsels wrapped in goat cheese and bacon. The mushroom and caramelized onion tart leaves you wanting more. Splitting an order of the spaetzle turned out to be a good idea as well; these handmade dumplings in a Gruyere cream sauce are like grown-up macaroni & cheese, topped with crispy scallions.

Premium price, but a worthy fried chicken.

After splitting a few appetizers, we were ready for the main event, such as excellent fried chicken, cooked in duck fat and served with braised greens and a drizzle of smoked honey. At $20, it’s the priciest dish of fried chicken and collards we’ve ever ordered, but it’s awfully good.

Black pepper gnocchi are tender pillows of potato pasta with winter squash, hearty and perfect for chilly weather. There’s always an Herbivore Plate that changes seasonally, currently both vegan and gluten free, in addition to a couple of creative salads. And there’s a respectable $13 cheddar burger served with a generous heap of crispy hot fries.

Enjoy a drink and a bite at The Rook!

The bar is one of the Rook’s strengths, with some great beers and wines, and a strong cocktail list. There’s a gin & ginger concoction, great brandy and rye cocktails, and even a Negroni variation on tap. Try the donuts for dessert.

The Rook has done a nice job of lining up some vegetarian, some vegan, and some gluten free options on their menu, but do ask your server about your dietary needs. We’ve found them very accommodating in most cases.

In the kitchen is Chef Gentry Morris, previously of Mercato Bar & Kitchen, Belly Pop-Up Kitchen, and Le Cafe Cent Dix. Out front he’s joined by Autumn Greenberg and Lila Donaruma, both most recently of Argos Inn and Bar Argos but with bar and restaurant management experience around town.

Find the Rook at 404 West State Street, where Fine Line Bistro used to be, visit rookfoodanddrink.com, or call 607-319-0180 and tell them you heard about them here.

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